Surayud suspects "power losers" as finger--pointing begins
Finger-pointing has begun, and so have conspiracy theories.
Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont has indicated domestic politics rather than the Muslim insurgency was behind the multiple bomb attacks before and after the New Year's countdown.
The Thaksin Shinawatra camp responded by claiming that the violence was a result of failure to heed a warning that southern insurgency was plotting to spread its campaign of terror to Bangkok. Pro-Thaksin and anti-coup groups also insisted the possibility of the bombs being the military's ploy to gain sympathy and discredit the ousted prime minister should not be dismissed.
A man injured from bomb attack was pronounced dead on Monday, becoming the third victim to have been killed in the attacks.
Surayud's broadcast comment - that people whose vested interests were affected by the September 19 coup might have been behind the attacks _ heightened speculation surrounding remnants of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's deep-rooted influence.
Surayud did not directly identify Thaksin or his allies as possible culprits. He only said those who lost power as a result of the military takeover may have been responsible.
The remark left little doubt as to who he was referring to, though. And speculation was fuelled by reports that the coup leaders were trying to summon one of Thaksin's closest aides, Prommin Lertsuridej. Prommin was known to be trying to postpone the meeting.
Sondhi Limthongkul, the key man behind the street protests against Thaksin prior to the September coup, has pointed his finger directly at the former prime minister. He was quoted in the Manager newspaper website that the bomb attacks were the latest in a series of systematic campaign to discredit the interim government and coupmakers.
The media tycoon noted that the Bangkok attacks followed a series of political assaults on the credibility and integrity of Surayud and coup leader Sonthi Bunyaratglin.
The Thai Rak Thai camp as well as Thaksin's personal lawyer have strongly denied involvement in the violence that cut short Bangkokians' New Year celebrations and dampened those elsewhere.
Thaksin's laywer Noppadon Patama said Thaksin had warned coup leader General Sonthi Boonyaratglin some time ago to keep an close watch against the militants in the Malay-speaking south over the possibility of them carrying out bomb attacks in Bangkok.
Gen Sonthi, the September coup leader, yesterday collaborated Surayud's remark, saying no evidence was pointing toward southern militants.
The eight bombs that exploded across Bangkok on New Year's Eve and early Monday also wounded 38 people, including nine foreigners.
"Based on the government's information and intelligence agencies, it was the work of people who lost power, but I cannot clearly say which group was behind it," Surayud told reporters.
He was speaking after meeting chiefs of security organisations.
"The perpetrators wanted to generate a negative political impact and make Thai people feel political instability," he said.
The blasts that rocked the capital that was gearing up to celebrate the new year forced the cancellation of New Year's celebrations in Bangkok and other major cities.
Surayud said he did not think the blasts were linked to the insurgency in the south, despite similarities between the Bangkok bombing methods and the near-daily attacks in the southernmost provinces.
"It is very unlikely that it was linked to the southern violence, because it is much easier for the insurgents to mount an attack in the three southern provinces" than to target Bangkok," he said.
"We are very sadden by what happened, because we had taken precautionary measures yet we failed to prevent this act of stabbing in the back. It could have also been an act copied from somewhere else," Surayud said.
He thanked the private sector for reacting promptly and cooperating well with the authorities, saying that helped prevent greater casualties.
Big shopping malls swiftly evacuated New Year's Eve shoppers and key New Year countdown events were cancelled.
"It could have been much worse if certain decisions hadn't been made in time," Surayud said.
Former Democrat leader Chuan Leekpai backed Sondhi's theory, saying Thaksin's network of supporters, both underground and in the government sector was more than capable of carrying out the attacks.
"There are still many people who remain loyal to Thaksin. Some are politicians and others permanent state officials. And some of these people still have power because the interim government and the Council for National Security haven't tried to change their status," Chuan said.
There were reports the interim government might move quick to seize assets of Thaksin and his family in order to cut financial supplies to any underground element bent on creating political violence and trouble. Some anti-coup activists suspected asset seizure to be a possible motive for the military to "stage" the New Year attacks.